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A look inside the St. James General Store. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Residents’ outcry over Suffolk County’s shortchanging of St. James General Store was met with an immediate reaction.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made an internal budget transfer Jan. 23 to reallocate $100,000 from the Parks Department’s line for staffing to the funds for operation of St. James General Store, making good on his office’s promise to make the historic landmark whole.

“The hotel/motel tax came in better than we expected,” Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director said. “We felt we could move $100,000 without impacting our operations.”

Alarm swept through the St. James community, residents and the store’s supporters last week after it was brought to light that the iconic store had its funding reduced by nearly 80 percent under the county’s adopted 2019 operating budget. Backers of the shop were concerned about its ability to keep its shelves stocked and continue operations.

“This is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James. “It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

Bellone only set aside $29,129 for the general store to purchase items for resale in 2019, down from a 2018 budget of $125,000. These funds were expected to stock the shelves of both the store and the Big Duck gift shop in Flanders, which is overseen by the same county staff. Naughton admitted the lowered funds would have only been sufficient through mid- to late spring.

Funding for the St. James General Store is taken from the proceeds of Suffolk’s hotel/motel tax, according to Naughton, which places a 3 percent occupancy tax on individuals renting rooms or lodging within the county that took effect in 2014.

Naughton said part of the reason the internal transfer was done is that the county executive did not want to delay funding to St. James General Store, which generally turns a profit for the county. Suffolk Legislature is expected to review and vote on allocation of the 2018 hotel/motel at its Feb. 13 general meeting for various organizations. To wait till then would have left St. James community wondering about the future fate of the landmark for an additional three weeks.

Graphic by TBR News Media

By Sara-Megan Walsh and Kyle Barr

The three North Shore towns of Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown are grappling with how to best recycle in 2019 after Brookhaven’s facility ground to a halt in October 2018. 

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August 2018. Brookhaven has since returned to dual stream recycling. Photo from Town of Smithtown

In that month, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor Green Stream Recycling prematurely terminated its 25-year agreement to operate the town’s recycling plant in Yaphank. The announcement came as collected recyclables piled up like mountains outside the Yaphank facility as China’s new National Sword policy took effect, implemented in January 2018, which set strict contamination limits on recyclable materials it would accept. Up until then, China had been the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, and now local towns had to scramble to find a new market to sell to.

All three towns solicited bids from recycling companies in the hopes of finding the most efficient and green solution for its residents. 

The result is Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown have all taken slightly different approaches based on what services they’ve been offered. Residents have been puzzled by new recycling schedules, as the townships are still attempting to explain what has changed with their recycling and how it will impact the future.

Brookhaven

Once the bottom of the recycling market fell out from China’s decision, Brookhaven was caught directly in the storm that followed, with the Green Stream facility being the center of multiple towns’ recycling efforts.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable,” said Christopher Andrade, the town’s recycling commissioner. “[China] went down from 5 percent contamination to 0.5 percent. It wasn’t the equipment that caused the problem, it was the standard that caused the problem.”

At the Jan. 17 Brookhaven Town Board meeting, council members unanimously voted to sign a $760,000 contract with West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to take their materials to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. 

The new standards mean Brookhaven residents can only put out the most common No. 1 and 2 plastics, which are collected together with aluminum such as food cans. Paper products are collected separately. The town asked that any unclean paper products such as used pizza boxes be thrown out with regular trash instead. Glass is no longer being picked curbside by the town, and instead can be placed at one of seven drop-off points located around the town.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable.”

— Chris Andrade

To advertise these changes, Brookhaven took out newspapers ads and broadcasted the changes on radio, television and social media at the tail end of 2018. The town is planning another media blitz for 2019, including another mailer to all residents along with additional newspaper and radio ads. The annual mailer sent to Brookhaven residents, which includes information about the new recycling system, costs $30,000. Otherwise the town has spent approximately $12,000 on newspaper ads and roughly $10,000 on radio ads so far. Andrade said the town is continuing to advertise the changes.

Further changes to Brookhaven’s recycling system could again appear on the horizon. Matt Miner, chief of operations, said the town is looking for means of getting its recycling facility restarted, though this would require a new contractor to partner with Brookhaven. 

Andrade said he hopes to have the facility running again before the six-month contract with Smithtown is up. In addition, the recycling commissioner said he is awaiting news of the current litigation between the town and Green Stream over the voided contract.

For now, Brookhaven is sticking with dual stream, as officials said single-stream recycling resulted in a worse quality product that at this point was near impossible to sell.

For more information on recycling, visit Brookhaven’s video on recycling.

Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown opted to take a unique approach to dual-stream recycling by taking on two different contracts in hopes of getting their best payout for recycled materials. 

In December, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) signed a six-month contract with Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to pick up all collected paper and cardboard recycling in exchange for paying the town $30 per ton. These collections are expected to net Smithtown approximately $177,000 per year, if they choose to extend the contract. 

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

The town entered a separate contract with Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, which will take unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, limited to plastics Nos. 1 and 2, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, at a total cost of approximately $104,000 per year. 

Overall, the combination of two contracts along with money received from Brookhaven for shipping their recyclables for pickup, will net the town approximately $178,500 per year in total, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Residents who wish to recycle their glass bottles and containers can drop off materials at three locations throughout town: Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park, Town Hall and the Highway Department building on Route 347 in Nesconset.  

Smithtown Town Board has budgeted $16,000 for its public campaign regarding the return to dual-stream, the least of any township but also with the smallest population to reach. Garguilo said many of the graphics and printed materials have been designed in-house, which has helped save money. She added that the supervisor and town officials will be speaking with senior citizen groups and community associations throughout early 2019 to help re-educate residents who may not be technologically savvy. 

For more information on recycling, go to Smithtown’s video on the subject.

Huntington 

After the Yaphank plant’s closure, the Town of Huntington signed a two-year contract with Omni Recycling of Babylon returning to a dual-stream process with papers and cardboard being collected on alternate weeks from plastics, aluminum and glass. The town’s total recycling costs will depend on how well the town can re-educate residents and their compliance, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

“The only vendors continuing single-stream recycling would have trucked it off Long Island at a cost of $120 to $135 a ton,” he said. “It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.” 

“It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci said to stick with a single-stream process would have cost the town approximately $1.7 million to $2 million a year based on bids received from contractors. As such, the town decided to move to a dual-stream process where its costs will be determined by how much of the collected material is clean enough to be repurposed. The town will receive $15 per ton of recyclable papers and cardboard delivered to Omni Recycling, and be billed $78 per contaminated ton as determined by the facility. 

“We require lids and covers on the recycling bins to reduce contamination from dirt and moisture,” the supervisor said. “Soiled and moldy paper are not recyclable.” 

The Town of Huntington expects to collect 900,000 tons of paper and cardboard from its residents. Assuming that 80 percent will be clean enough to recycle, Lupinacci said the town will wind up paying out approximately $32,000 for its paper goods. 

Unlike Brookhaven and Smithtown, Huntington town residents can continue to put all plastics, Nos. 1 through 7, and glass bottles out for curbside pickup. Based on an average of 550,000 tons collected annually, the town will pay $75 a ton, at a cost of $412,500 a year, to recycle these materials. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The Town of Huntington has set aside nearly $86,000 in 2019 — more than Brookhaven and Smithtown combined — to educate its residents about the return to dual stream. According to Huntington’s website, dual-stream recycling is the collection of bottles, cans and plastics one week, with paper and corrugated cardboard the following week. Half that budget will be paid by a grant obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Lupinacci. To date, the town has spent $1,000 on social media ads and roughly $43,000 on printed materials including direct mailers and calendars. 

The supervisor said it seems to be paying off. 

“Omni-Westbury, [which] does our collection, said the quality of our first week’s recyclables was better than expected,” Lupinacci said. 

The first collection of papers and cardboard in January yielded 104 tons, only 10 percent of which was considered contaminated, according to the supervisor. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks,” he said. 

For more information on recycling, watch Huntington’s video on recycling.

Glass: Is it worth collecting? 

Glass is a product many town officials have found difficult to sell, as there’s not much market for it.

Brookhaven and Smithtown are no longer accepting it as part of curbside pickup, but rather asking their residents to bring glass bottles to various drop-off locations. Collections at these locations has increased, according to Miner, and Brookhaven Town has installed larger containers to meet that demand.

To date, Brookhaven has sent two pilot shipments with Jersey City-based Pace Glass Recycling, and Miner said the town is looking to set up some sort of long-term contract.  Andrade said the town is not currently making money from sending the glass to Pace, but the only costs incurred are from the town employees hauling the product up to New Jersey.

“This is actually a recycling of the glass, which most of the towns on Long Island have not been able to achieve,” Miner said.

Andrade added there is a chance Brookhaven could land a deal with the New
Jersey-based company.

“You have to establish relationships, so we’re still in the beginning of the dance there,” the recycling commissioner said. “They’re taking a look at the quality of our material … they’re liking the material so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Smithtown elected officials renewed a prior inter-municipal agreement with Brookhaven at their Jan. 24 meeting, agreeing to ship the town’s collected glass to their neighbor for processing. 

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

A look inside the St. James General Store. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The St. James General Store is one of the longest continuously operating stores in the country, selling homemade goods and treats to visitors since 1857. Now, there is uncertainty and fear that its future is in danger.

Suffolk County, which operates the shop as a historic site under the Parks Department, has reduced its funding of the landmark by nearly 80 percent under the county’s adopted 2019 operating budget. St. James residents and supporters of the general store are concerned about its ability to keep its shelves stocked and continue operations.

“It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“This is something that is near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James. “It’s a landmark that was the original post office of St. James. It’s such a huge part of our town that people come from all over to come to this place.”

Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone (D) only set aside $29,129 for the general store to purchase items for resale, down from a 2018 budget of $125,000. These funds are expected to stock the shelves of both the store and the Big Duck gift shop in Flanders, which is overseen by the same county staff.

“In 2018, the county had extra money left over from prior years and was able to appropriate additional funds to parks [including the stores],” Eric Naughton, the county’s budget director, said.

Despite the slashing of the stores budget, Suffolk’s lawmakers generally agree the St. James and Big Duck shops are moneymakers for the county. The stores turned over a profit of approximately $400,000 in 2018, which was returned to Suffolk’s general fund.

“As it does make money, it is in our best interest to increase its funding,” Naughton said.

As it does make money, it is in our best interest to increase its funding.”

— Eric Naughton

St. James resident Scott Posner, president of neighboring Deepwells Farm Historical Society, is familiar firsthand with the county’s fiscal issues. Roughly 14 years ago, the county walked away from running Deepwells for “budgetary reasons,” and he was part of a group there to continue to ensure the site’s operations. Posner said he’s ready to advocate for the general store.

“What we’re doing right now is making sure the county corrects its funding,” he said. “What we really need to do is lean on the county.”

Funding for the St. James General Store is taken from the proceeds of Suffolk’s hotel/motel tax, according to Naughton, which places a 3 percent occupancy tax on individuals renting rooms or lodging within the county. The budget director said once the tax is collected from businesses for last year and he’s able to reconcile the 2018 proceeds, there should be additional funding available to allocate to St. James General Store, Big Duck gift shop and the parks.

“I think we will be able to return it to the same level of funding,” Naughton said.

It is a living part of the past. It would be a shame to see it defunded.”

— Bev Tyler

Any additional funding recommended by the Suffolk executive’s office would need to go before the county Legislature for a vote and its approval before being appropriated. In the meanwhile, the county and the general store’s supporters agree the store’s limited budget will be enough to get it through the spring.

“The St. James General Store is one of the treasures of Suffolk County,” Bev Tyler, Three Village Historical Society historian said. “It is a living part of the past. It would be a shame to see it defunded.”

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), whose district covers St. James, said he will advocate for the store: “The oldest store in the country has survived the hurricanes, suburban sprawl, the Civil War and the Great Depression,” but not the county’s mismanagement.

Editor’s Note: The last name of Bev Tyler, Three Village Historical Society historian, was changed to its proper spelling. 

State legislators recently voted on legislation to reform voting in New York.

Assembly members had voting on their minds.

Both houses passed a package of bills Jan. 14 which are currently awaiting the signatures of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Legislators said the goal of the bills is to reform the state’s current electoral process to make voting easier and to reduce the influence of special interest in elections, according to a press release from the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

— Steve Englebright

“It’s a good day for democracy in New York,” Englebright said in the release. “Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.”

One piece of legislation will establish a nine-day early voting period starting in the 2019 general election. The period will include two weekends to allow voters to cast their votes in person, also before any primary or special election. This is what 35 other states and Washington, D.C., already do.

“New York is no longer behind the rest of the country,” said state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

Gaughran said many residents have told him that there have been times they have been unable to vote due to being stuck in the city with work or with inclement weather delaying trains. He added early voting would benefit all parties and races.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a statement if the bills become law there will not only be more time to cast votes but more clarity on primary day as well as more transparency.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections,” LaValle said in a release.

Another bill will change absentee voting no earlier than November 2021. Currently, a voter can cast an absentee ballot if they know they will be unable to do so Election Day due to physical illness or disability. An amendment to the New York State Constitution would allow for “no excuse” absentee voting.

“In today’s society, with so many people working long hours, combined with active lifestyles, the system needs to change to make it easier for individuals to participate in elections.”

— Ken LaValle

State legislators also passed bills to combine the state primary with the federal non-presidential primary. If Cuomo signs it into law, these primaries will take place in June. Gaughran said the move would save taxpayer dollars, and it ensures the NYS election laws comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which helps in the efficiency of military members serving overseas and citizens who live abroad voting in U.S. elections. Gaughran said he thinks combining primaries will help those who are currently overseas vote as easily for local offices as well as federal.

Another piece of legislation will allow voter registration to be allowed up to Election Day instead of 10 days or before. New York State voters will need to vote on the act as a constitutional amendment. Another bill would automatically transfer a voter’s registration when they move within New York state instead of residents needing to update when they move from one county to another.

The state legislators approved a bill that will require voter registration forms to include a space for preregistering for those 16 and 17 years of age. LaValle said, as a former teacher and principal, the bill was a meaningful one for him for young people to stay involved in the political process.

“It is my hope that when the measures become law, more people will take advantage of the opportunity to vote, allow more of voices to be heard, and thereby strengthen our government in the process,” LaValle said.

Both houses passed legislation to restrict the LLC loophole, which allows LLCs to make campaign contributions as individuals, and enables one person or corporation that owns multiple LLCs to funnel donations to a single candidate or committee. If Cuomo signs the bill, LLC campaign contributions will be limited to a $5,000 aggregate — the same limit that exists for corporations — and would require the disclosure of all owners of the LLC, whether direct or indirect.

Zoning Board hearing to be held Jan. 24, 6 p.m. at Town Hall with presentation; period for public comment

A rendering of the proposed Downtown Huntington building submitted to the Town of Huntington by Kean Development Company. Image from Huntington’s Planning Department

A developer’s proposal to reconfigure five properties close to the heart of Huntington village into a singular mixed-use building will go before the Town of Huntington’s Zoning Board tonight for a second time to seek approval.

Developer John Kean of Cold Spring Harbor-based Kean Development Company will present a design to construct a four-story, mixed-use building occupying 1.36 acres including the site of Classic Galleries and the historic Huntington firehouse. It proposes to build 84 apartment units above retail stores and restaurant space along with a below-ground parking garage.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about it,”  Jim Margolin, an attorney representing the developer said. “We think it’s a good project and good for the village. Hopefully, people will listen.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about it. We think it’s a good project and good for the village. Hopefully, people will listen.”

— Jim Margolin

The project, called Downtown Huntington, was first proposed to the Town of Huntington’s Planning Board in August 2015. Since then, the developer and the property owner Alan Fromkin have revised their preliminary plans four times making changes to the total number of apartments, stories, height of the building and architectural design, according to town officials. The most recent plans were submitted April 10, 2017.

“The bottom line is that this project will provide 127 parking spaces on site and there will be a significant reduction in the size of restaurant and retail use,” Margolin said.

The proposed structure would shrink the street-level retail space from nearly 40,000 down to 11,620 square feet and cut the restaurant floor space in roughly half from 6,400 to 3,853 square feet. Margolin also stressed the current parcels only provide 40 parking slots spread out among the five lots — 235 and 243 Main St., 5-7 Stewart Ave., 11 Stewart Ave. and 12 Gerard St.

Previously, Huntington’s Planning Board first reviewed the proposed development application and gave an advisory recommendation to changes. Among its requests was for the developer to conduct a traffic circulation study and profile renderings, which the town received in August 2018. With these documents in hand, the Planning Board revised its recommendations Wednesday night before the public hearing set for Thursday at 6 p.m.

“People are objecting to the sheer size of it and the extreme number of variances the developer is requesting.”

— Bob Suter

Huntington resident Bob Suter, who helps organize a residential coalition called Save Huntington Village, said he was one of many residents who remains staunchly opposed to the proposed Downtown Huntington development.

“People are objecting to the sheer size of it and the extreme number of variances the developer is requesting,” he said.

Many objectors have spoken out most loudly against variances requested to increase the maximum height of the building from three to four stories and relief for the required number of parking spaces. The parcels are currently zoned for C-6 General Business District, a zoning that Huntington residents have repeatedly called on the town board to review and change. Suter’s group arranged to make preprinted signed protest signs available to residents and business owners for pick-up Jan. 19.

“We handed out close to 200 signs on Saturday in a very short period of time,” he said. “People who were showing up are angry, they are really upset.”

Dozens have taken to social media to vent and have written emails to the town about preserving the former historic Huntington firehouse as a possible landmark in the village.

“While I cannot comment on a specific application before the ZBA, it is the priority of my administration to preserve the historic character and charm of our town while allowing business to flourish.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“While I cannot comment on a specific application before the ZBA, it is the priority of my administration to preserve the historic character and charm of our town while allowing business to flourish,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in statement. “In 2018, my first year in office, I asked the town’s Planning Department to review possible changes to C-6 zoning and provide recommendations to aid in the preservation of our town’s quaint aesthetic. The Planning Department is still working on those recommendations.”

Margolin said his clients have agreed to restore and preserve the original façade of the building, even though it “wasn’t designated historic by the town board.” Rather, its intended as a sign of goodwill.

Those wishing to voice their concerns, support or opposition regarding Downtown Huntington can participate in the public hearing scheduled for Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at Huntington Town Hall.

Residents unable to attend Thursday night’s meeting can submit written comments via email to planning@huntingtonny.gov.

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By David Luces

The Town of Smithtown has received nearly $100,000 in grant funding it will use for critical infrastructural projects to improve the area’s water quality and revitalize downtown business districts.

Smithtown officials received notice at the end of December 2018 it received $97,375 from the Regional Economic Development Council of Long Island. The majority of the funding will be used for a stormwater management plan to protect Stony Brook Harbor and approximately one quarter will be used to further the town’s revitalization plans for St. James.

“”We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bulk of the grant,  $72,375, will be used to undertake a stormwater management feasibility study for the town-owned Cordwood Park off Harbor Road in Smithtown. Working together with the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue, the town looks to continue the preservation of the water quality in Stony Brook Harbor by creating and then implementing new stormwater and erosion control plans.   

Russell Barnett, the town’s environmental protection director, said stormwater runoff has always been a concern because of the high likelihood of contaminants in the water.

“Stormwater carries everything with it,” he said. “It’s important to protect the quality of water in the harbor.”

Barnett said Stony Brook Harbor is the cleanest harbor on the North Shore of Long Island and many people use it for boating, fishing and bird watching. As part of the study, he hopes to capture stormwater for testing, accurately map stormwater routes, improve drainage infrastructure and look to protect the natural river bed from further erosion.   

“This has been an issue for quite some time,” Barnett said. “We have the funds now to study the situation and hopefully fix the problem.”

This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town also received a $25,000 grant for its St. James Visioning Study, whose aim is to economically and visually revitalize the business district and restore its place as a cultural and social hub of the community.

“We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents,” Supervisor Edward Wehrheim (R) said in a press release.

In conjunction with the visioning study, the town is making plans for community outreach that include input on the modernizing of town and hamlet zoning maps. The future plans intend to shape the physical, social, environmental and economic future of these communities.

Town spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said the Smithtown council members are looking for help from the community.

“This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future,” Garguilo said. “This is their chance to have the ultimate say.”

In addition to these projects, the town hopes to organize community engagement meetings this spring where residents will be encouraged to voice their opinions on various topics including changing zoning, modernizing master plans for each hamlet and future town development.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) in a 2014 debate at TBR News Media. File Photo by Erika Karp

Hot off an electoral victory from last November, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) spoke to TBR News Media on a number of topics including a new county online tax filing system, the need for more cohesion on how towns send their tax rolls to his office and the potential of running for Suffolk County executive in 2019.

Online tax filing for delinquent taxes

Kennedy announced a new online filing service that will be available to Suffolk County residents after the tax season ends May 31.

‘With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday.’

— John Kennedy Jr.

The program, called Citizen Self Service, will allow residents to plug in their bank account and routing numbers instead of sending the county a paper check to pay late or delayed property taxes. 

“With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday,” Kennedy said. “[People who don’t use technology] are something we, in government, have to be mindful to accommodate.”

Each township’s receiver of taxes mails out tax bills mid-December and are payable to the tax receiver from Dec. 1 through May 31. If a resident fails to pay their taxes on time, they become delinquent and must pay their taxes to the county comptroller with an additional 5 percent interest plus 1 percent for each additional month the taxes are late. Payments received later than Aug. 31 are charged an additional tax sale advertising fee.

Kennedy said the existing pay-by-mail system will remain in place. The comptroller’s office also hosts a pay-by-phone system that allows property owners to talk to a representative and pay the bill that way, but Kennedy said that system is limited in the amount of time it takes and the business hours of the comptroller’s office. 

“We always must make an ability for someone to go ahead and transact,” he said.

Need for consistency between towns

The comptroller said there have been issues in the past with how municipalities report tax payments to his office. Suffolk County towns must give lists to the comptroller’s office on which bills were paid and those persons or businesses that are tax delinquent. The issue, Kennedy said, was no two towns currently use the same system to file these reports.

“I have 10 town tax receivers to deal with regarding their individual software systems for the record of tax collection,” he said. “We have to drive uniformity amongst the towns — one way or the other they will have to pass muster through us.”

Some towns are more accurate than others, according to Kennedy, as he named the Town of Islip as the most consistently accurate and on-time with its tax reports. Most municipalities collect approximately 90 to 95 percent of their areas property taxes. The comptroller’s office must then spend time going back and forth between the towns’ tax receiver offices to work out those discrepancies. 

Kennedy said he’s soon planning to implement, on a prototype “scrubbing system” that will find mistakes on each town’s end and flag them to be fixed before the documents reach the comptroller’s office. The system will first start on a preliminary basis with Brookhaven and Smithtown townships this year. 

Potential run for county executive

‘Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.’

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy is only a few months out from his Nov. 6 victory against Democratic challenger Jay Schneiderman for his second term in office. It was close as Kennedy received only 50.88 percent of the votes. 

Still, the comptroller is now weighing the pros and cons of running for the office of county executive.

“I am weighing the possibility, but I have not made any decision yet regarding it,” he said. “Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.”

Part of his decision-making process is figuring if he would trust another person to take up the duties and responsibilities of Suffolk’s comptroller. 

“Do I know of anybody that comes to mind, anybody who would embrace the position that I have? I don’t know.” Kennedy said. “The thing that allows me to be aggressive, is the time I spent in the Legislature, the time I was minority leader, my experience in government and my experience as an attorney.”

Read TBR News Media next week for Kennedy’s take on Suffolk’s financial status, how it could impact residents and the upcoming police contract negotiations. 

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran announces a donation drive for furloughed government employees Jan. 10. Photo from Gaughran's office

As the federal government shutdown drags into the fourth week, Huntington area boaters and elected officials have come together to help provide relief to furloughed federal employees and their families.

The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, which represents more than 20 boat and watercraft organizations, announced Jan. 10 a gift card donation drive to help the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who safeguard the waters of the Long Island Sound.

“Year-round the brave and dedicated men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard stand ready to
respond to any emergency,” said Jackie Martin, executive officer of the boat council. “They continue to report to work even though they are not getting paid. They still have bills to pay and many have families to feed.”


Donations of food, personal hygiene items, household supplies, pet foods and gift cards for federal employees can be dropped off at:

• Gaughran’s District Office
   99-111South St., Suite 250
  Oyster Bay, NY

• Stop & Shop
   60 Wall St.
   Huntington, NY

• Long Island Cares
   220 Broadway
   Huntington Station, NY

• Long Island Cares
  10 Davids Drive
  Hauppauge, NY

Donations of gift cards for U.S. Coast Guard personnel can be sent to:

  The Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs
    P.O. Box 2124
    Halesite, NY 11743

All checks must be made payable to “Chief Petty Officer Association” with Shut Down Fund CT-NY in the memo line.

Martin said the idea for a gift card drive came from her husband who previously served in the U.S. Navy. She said he knew the Coast Guard personnel operating out of Eatons Neck and Hartford, Connecticut, are considered part of the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and, as a result, have not
received a paycheck since the shutdown began Dec. 22.

“He remembered how tough it was to live from paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “When you have a young family and are trying to live paycheck to paycheck it’s difficult.”

Coast Guard staff has cut back on all nonessential services but must be available to respond to emergency  situations. Some of its members travelfrom as far away as Jersey City to do four-day shifts at the base.

“There are people out there boating even in this weather,” Martin said. “There’s commercial fisherman and clammers out on our waterways.”

In addition to gift cards, the boating council will accept monetary donations to purchase gift cards to
be distributed among the Coast Guard by their respective commanders based on need.

Huntington’s boaters are not the only ones to have launched a donation drive in efforts to help out federal
employees in need. New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) made one of his first acts of
office Jan. 10 to announce a food and supplies drive alongside state Assemblyman Charles Lavine
(D-Glen Cove) at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, which has been shuttered by the government shutdown.

“Our federal workers don’t have the luxury of sacrificing their paychecks for an undetermined amount of time,” Gaughran said. “Federal workers on Long Island are now expected to choose between feeding their families or paying their mortgage.”

Gaughran and Lavine are working to set up a network of supermarket, business and offices to serve as
collection sites for donations to go to federal employees. Items being collected include food, personal care items, common household supplies, pet food and gift cards. He stressed that due to state laws the elected
officials and their offices cannot accept cash donations on behalf of federal workers.

The state senator said he started the initiative after speaking with Paule Pachter, chief executive officer of Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares food bank, who stressed that winter is often the most difficult season with the agency already helping approximately 450 families. Resources are quickly becoming stretched thin.

LI Cares will help collect and distribute food, personal hygiene items and other donations collected
to federal employees already directed to the agency through its channels, according to Gaughran.

“I hope this is a short food drive that it won’t be necessary for a long period of time,” he said.  “I hope the government in Washington, D.C., does its job and reopens soon.”

Pay inequities based on gender and color are finally being addressed in Suffolk County. Stock photo

By Lisa Scott

Somewhat quietly in late 2018, the Suffolk County Legislature and County Executive Steve Bellone (D) added an important tool to the fight for pay equity: The Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings (RISE) Act. 

The League of Women Voters of Suffolk County commends the entire Legislature and the county executive for taking this action. It is fair; it’s sound economics; it can reduce the need to pay for additional social support for working families; and it’s good for Suffolk County’s citizens. It shows that our county’s legislators and executive can work to reclaim their place as innovative, socially responsible elected officials while operating with foresight in a fiscally prudent manner. 

Why should pay equity be a concern for us all? Race and gender are significant factors in what women earn for doing the exact same jobs as men. In April 2018, the New York State Department of Labor reported that Suffolk County women in general earn just 78.1 cents for every dollar a man earns. Comparably, black women are paid about 64 cents for every white male dollar, and the pay gap of Latina women is about 55 cents to a white man’s salary dollar. 

Equal Pay Day in April reflects how long AFTER the end of the year a woman has to work before she takes home the same amount of earnings as a man in the prior year — thus, over 15 months of work for a woman to earn what a comparable man earned in 12 months!

Pay inequality isn’t just a women’s issue; it is a family issue. Recent research has found that 42 percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are their families’ primary or sole breadwinners. Wage discrimination can impair their ability to buy homes and pay for a college education and limits their total lifetime earnings, thereby reducing their retirement savings and benefits.

Gender pay inequity and low wages put the burden of meeting the expenses of employees squarely on the backs of local taxpayers, who make up the difference in the costs of living with social safety net programs.

The pay gap not only hurts women and their families, but it also hurts the communities they support. That means local businesses are hurt through lost sales, as are local schools and governments that depend on sales tax and property tax dollars to fund the programs and the infrastructure those communities need to exist. In New York State, social service costs are paid directly by county governments that then must wait for state and federal reimbursement. 

If pay equity makes good economic sense for our communities, how does the RISE act work toward this goal? The bill, which takes effect on June 30, 2019 was initially created to restrict employers from using salary and benefits history when establishing salary and benefits for new employees. The Legislature explained that utilizing this information in decision making perpetuates wage discrimination and the wage gap experienced by women, racial and ethnic minorities and employees returning to the workforce after an extended period away.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) recently signed an “equal pay for work of equal value bill” that directs the president of the civil service commission to study and publish a report evaluating public employers’ wage disparities related to the job titles segregated by the gender, race and/or national origin of the employees in the title. Once completed, the study will be delivered to the governor and the leaders of the Legislature, and the data from the study will be used to address pay inequities in the state’s workforce. 

“New York State has to be a leader on this issue — a model of reform,” the bill’s sponsor, Assembly member Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) said. “By getting our own house in order and ensuring that our public employees are being paid fairly for the work that they are doing, we are sending the wider message that wage disparities cannot be tolerated in a society that prides itself on treating everyone fairly.”   

The NYS Legislature is only in session until June. We must advocate now to strengthen our equal pay laws so that women have the tools they need to fight back against pay discrimination. 

The league’s work on pay equity stemmed from member concern over the feminization of poverty in the 1980s. Additional sources for pay equity information and advocacy include AAUW, PowHerNY, National Women’s Law Center and the Center for American Progress.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

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